Beyond the Crystal Sea
ABOUT THIS ALBUM The single most innovative progressive art-rock album in the earliest years of CCM was this brilliant recording, released only on LP on an indie label way back in 1980. For the first time ever this classic has been digitally remastered and re-issued on CD May, 2010, on Born Twice Records. Jimmy first shared the stage with The Guess Who when he was just 16. In the years that have followed, he has worked as a producer, engineer, musician, etc. Some of the artists that Hotz has worked with in one capacity or another include: Fleetwood Mac, B.B. King, Dave Mason, Leon Russell, Yes, Jon Anderson, Kitaro, Steve Winwood, Chicago, Jerry Williams, The Association, ArkAngel, Petra, The Smothers Brothers, Roger McGuinn, Giant Killer, Dove, Vision, Scott Gershin and Haven. Ask any in-the-know collector about the best Christian progressive art rock album and the answer is usually as toss up between ArkAngel-Warrior and this one. Beyond The Crystal Sea is the heavier and spacier of the two, plastered with what seems like layer upon layer of synthesizers. 'March Of The Dead Souls' pins your ears to the wall from the start with it's hard space rock barrage and eerie banshee choirs. Hotz's layered hard rock guitar is absolutely venomous on 'Hand Of The Most High,' and the instrumental 'Teton,' while 'Vision Ships,' 'Beyond The Blue,' and 'From Love Life Did Begin' are more reminiscent of the melodic lavish textures of Yes (though vocally Hotz brings to mind Peter Gabriel of early Genesis). ArkAngel's Kemper Crabb is in here playing recorder on 'Alpine Magic.' The production quality is superb as is the fantasy cover art. If you've got a good stereo, you're gonna wanna blast this up loud. It's out of this world! (Ken Scott - Archivist) Fans of Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Genesis, and Pink Floyd must have this. Two previously unreleased bonus tracks also appear on this CD. Songs include: 'Observations Of A Larger Reality: A. 'March Of the Dead Souls,' B. 'Hand Of the Most High;' Night Passage,' 'The Vision Ship,' 'Teton,' 'Beyond the Blues,' 'Alpine Magic,' 'From Love Life Did Begin,' 'Long, Long Ago (previously unreleased bonus track),' and 'The Gates Of Time' (previously unreleased bonus track). 9 songs 6-page insert w/lyrics TT: 42:41 ROCK OVER AMERICA REVIEW JIMMY HOTZ: Beyond the Crystal Sea (Thirtieth Anniversary Edition) (Born Twice Records) It's good that Born Twice Records re-released Jimmy Hotz' "Beyond the Crystal Sea", as an entire generation of rock fans could have missed out on it. This very melodic, Christian-oriented art-rock concept album was released in 1980, and it successfully captures a magical moment in music history. The beginning of the hardening of rock into heavy metal, where the art-rock styles of Rush, Kansas, and Yes were beginning to inspire other artists to turn it up louder and faster. In that sense "Beyond The Crystal Sea" sounds a bit like David Bowie's "Space Oddity" with a heavier tinge, but still loaded with lush, harmonious guitar, keyboard, and vocal arrangements from the unquestionably talented Hotz and his accompanists (Phil Huston and Paul Mills on additional keyboards, Brian Tankersley and Wayne Six on bass, Gary Ingram, Rocky Mountain and Russell Dunlap on drums). Hotz' voice sounds very much like Jon Anderson's of Yes, and mixed with the keyboards and guitars, the overall sound is as soothing as it is powerful. Not that I endorse drug use of any sort, but this CD could probably turn a bad LSD trip back into a positive one...in fact, I could see a therapeutic use for it to counteract depression. There's a consistent Christian message throughout, albeit refreshingly not of the 'repent or burn' variety. The majestic 8-minute opener "Observations of a Larger Reality...A: March of the Dead Souls" describes a battle between good and evil, but all the CD's other songs are very inspirational: "Beyond the blues" and "From Love Life Did Begin" practically drip with feel-good vibes. The two bonus tracks "Long, long ago" and "The Gates of Time" are incredibly ambitious, describing what existed before the Universe was created. Liner notes call "Beyond the Crystal Sea" one of the best Christian progressive art-rock albums ever made. Research indicates that Hotz mostly served as a studio musician and recording engineer, so it's a bit of a shame that he didn't record more music of his own...however, perhaps he thought he couldn't out-do "Beyond the Crystal Sea". It does have all the markings of a masterpiece. WHITE THRONE REVIEWS From those who were around the 'in the old days' of Jesus music it seemed that the criticism was that the product was inferior. In some ways that might've been true. The production values couldn't compare with the deep pockets of the major labels. So the sound of many early Christian rock albums just weren't up to snuff. That being the case even if the musicianship was up to the quality of their secular counterparts, chances were the production would obscure their talent in a wall of sonic mud. Well thanks to Matt at Retroactive he has started another new label, entitled Born Twice it will solely focus on reissuing classic Jesus rock from a bygone era. Now for me to be honest I'd not heard of Jimmy Hotz before. Yet as I ravaged through my bible bookstore memories I did remember seeing this album before, about 26 years ago. It sat in the 'demo' section of my local Bible Bookstore, long out of print. At the time it wasn't 'heavy enough' for me. Well with time comes refinement and greater appreciation, as I slipped an advanced copy into my CD player I truly felt transported Beyond the Crystal Sea. If you're a fan of Pink Floyd, Archangel, Yes perhaps Emerson Lake and Palmer than this album should be right up your alley. Beyond the Crystal Sea provides soaring melodies and ethereal moments of synthesizers and keyboards. However Jimmy provides a tasty and emotional lead guitar that he isn't afraid to bring right on out into the open. His guitar romps are reminiscent of Phil Keaggy or Jeff Beck in style and execution. I've heard Hotz vocals compared to early Peter Gabriel, when he fronted Genesis that might be a fair comparison. The music is of a more relaxed variety that has more in common with 1970 than 2010. Comparisons to Archangel shouldn't really be attempted, Hotz plays electric progressive rock. Archangel has been more known for their acoustic prowess. It should be noted the Kemper Crabb, leader of Archangel, plays recorder on the instrumental track, 'Alpine Magic.' There are also two bonus tracks for nine songs total. 'Long, Long Ago' and 'The Gates of Time' are fantastic Floydian/Yes styled compositions that add a lot to the album. These additions provide a swirly dreamy musical tapestry that will have hitting repeat on your player more than once. Yes the production is a bit dated yet it is a reminder that this album was made for love. It wasn't produced for some type of top ten splash in any market. This album is a labor of love that continues to please those who are lucky enough to unearth it. Beyond the Crystal Sea is not for everyone, but it is a reminder of the purity and honesty of what Jesus music was in 1979. An art form that hadn't been completely watered down or corrupted by the selfishness of man. Enjoy this release and take a journey Beyond the Crystal Sea. 8 axes ANGELIC WARLORD REVIEW The definition of art rock is every bit as complex as the genre itself. Often described as having "experimental or avant-garde influences" and emphasizing "novel sonic textures", art rock has earned a reputation for "blending elements of rock and European classical music" while "appealing more intellectually or musically". In other words, art rock is "not (music) formulated along pop lines for mass consumption". It also must be noted how art rock and progressive rock are two almost interchangeable terms. Yes, progressive rock trends towards the more traditionally melodic and art rock the at times eclectic, but what the two have in common is the capacity for longer and more complex compositions and extended instrumental arrangements. Specifically, the "progressive art rock" scene arose in the 1960's when many artists were attempting to "broaden the boundaries of rock" or "elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility", but it did not have it's heyday until the 1970s with the commercial success of King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Pink Floyd, Yes and Genesis. But what about the Christian rock scene? Are there any Christian artists from the same ere that drew upon the influence of progressive art rock? The first to come to mind, of course, is Ark Angel, whose 1980 debut Warrior combined Tolkien imagery and medieval instrumentation to create an apocalyptic mixture of the acoustic and electric: the album is divided into two sides- the first, "Wind Face", is mostly acoustic while "Fire Face", the second, takes a hard rock approach. Jimmy Hotz's 1980 release Beyond the Crystal Sea also deserves consideration. Hotz started out doing professional studio work in the early 70's and has held his share of job titles throughout the years, including Record Producer, Recording Engineer, Musician, Inventor and Musical Instrument Designer. Artists he has worked with include Yes, Jon Anderson, Steve Winwood, Chicago, B.B. King, Bonnie Rait and a host of others. He also helped produce the previously referenced ArkAngel album. Originally a vinyl only release on Vision Records, Beyond The Crystal Sea was re-issued as a 30th Anniversary Edition in 2010 on Born Twice Records, a sister label to Retroactive Records focusing on early Jesus Music. Two bonus tracks, "Long Long Ago" and "The Gates Of Time", off the artists 2000 EP The Gates Of Time were included as well. Beyond The Crystal Sea is a highly acclaimed work that is considered one of the best examples of early progressive art rock. Musically, it brings a joining of complex song structures and intricate time changes, classical interludes, numerous instrumental excursions and more than enough melody to draw you in with repeated listen. Songwriting is nothing less than stellar. Consider album opener "Observations Of A Larger Reality", eight minutes of classic progressive rock, in addition to "From Love Life Did Begin" and "Long, Long Ago", two low-key (almost bluesy) numbers that hint at Pink Floyd. Some symphonic flavorings can be found on "The Gates Of Time" while a mellower and more relaxed direction is taken on "The Vision Ship" and "Beyond The Blues". The album also includes several instrumental pieces: the hard rocking "Teton" and acoustic based "Alpine" (Kemper Crabb of ArkAngel makes a guest appearance on this one). Hotz skillfully adorns the project with layer upon layer of keyboards, piano and synthesizers. Yes, there is a heavy keyboard slant here but a more than ample amount of guitar makes it's presence felt as well. Just check out "Teton" and "Observations Of Larger Reality" to understand my point. Vocally, the artist brings a clean and smooth mid-ranged vocal presence that fits well with the progressive based environs at hand. Production sounds a bit dated but is otherwise free from any type of detracting thinness or muddiness. The album gets underway to "Observations Of A Larger Reality", eight and a half minutes of classic progressive rock that would do Neal Morse or Kerry Livgren proud. The song stands out with it's instrumental proclivity, opening to a three minute "angelic" instrumental stretch and closing it's final two and a half in the same manner. In between the artist weaves a flowing melody in drifting between calmer piano driven passages and others carried at a steadier tempo by a staunch rhythm guitar. This one hints at spiritual warfare: In the stillness of the morning I hear the weakened cries Of those who march as dead souls To bring more pain and strife The seem to be all the victors But they only know defeat As they march against the Mighty King Who's called the Prince of Peace Guitar feedback carries instrumental "Night Passage" it's brief (2:12) distance. "The Vision Ship" is a calmer piece that would fit in on the "mellower" first side of ArkAngel's Warrior. The song slowly drifts it's distance in keyboard driven fashion with occasional hints of guitar decorating the backdrop. Some soothing bluesy lead work sustains the final minute and a half. Lyrically, "The Vision Ship" comes across comforting in nature: When it seems that your journey Is far from it's' end And your hope has all gone away If your heart is burning for the joy it once knew Well, my friend There's still hope for you Just board the Vision Ship And let your worries go Instrumental "Teton" represents the albums most up-tempo and hardest rocking piece. The song can best be described as a joining of heavy duty guitars and earnest riffing backed by occasional outbursts of fast paced soloing. "Beyond The Blues" heads in an acoustic rock direction. Relaxed and low-key in capacity, the song stands out with it's forwardly mixed keyboards while making room for accentuating bluesy guitar passages. This one would also be a good match for the first side to Warrior. "Beyond The Blues" brings a message of hope: As we look above us let our hearts sing out With praise for all we see And look unto the hills As we call upon God And pray for our brothers in need For they are but as children sleeping Lying in the dew Walking with each ray of sunlight To a road that leads beyond the blues "Alpine Magic", the albums third and final instrumental, moves it's length acoustically as Kemper Crabb adds to the lush scene with his recorder. "From Love Life Did Begin" brings a return to the progressive. The song proves slow and ethereal as it makes use of vocal harmonies with the end result an environs bordering on the "Floydian". The melody is entrancing while the same can be said for the manner in which things gradually fade out over the last several minutes. The focus here is on eternal matters: Well I'm off with the wind To prepare us a place Far from the reaches Of this time and space Where life from love did begin Remember to share all the life I have shown you within For the souls of the sleeping Are ready to be born again The "Floydian" influences continue on "Long, Long Ago", by far the albums finest track. What stands out about the song is it's abundant melody - gripping, complete and immediately catchy - while Hotz shines with his silky smooth vocal presence. Otherwise, this one proves another plodding track giving rise to some bluesy and acoustically driven flavorings. On "Long, Long Ago" the artist is attempting to take us on a journey to the time before our present universe was called into existence: So long, long ago and far, far away These were the final words they would sing Hope, faith and love as their world did fade Long, long ago and far, far away Long, long ago and far, far away Once our Creator was called by His name Great Kuri Ande, Angels would sing So long, long ago and far, far away "The Gates Of Time" is the most symphonic of the albums material. It all starts with the epic based instrumental introduction - backed by some keyed up lead work - but culminates with the songs luxurious aura as the phrase "Kuri Andre" is repeated in catchy fashion. The only complaint is that I wish this one were a few minutes longer. "The Gates Of Time" chronicles a Spirit journey to the heart of the universe, passing through the Gates of Time and beyond: Standing at the Gates of Time in the heart of the universe An Angel takes my hand I'm taken on the wings of Time to the edge of the universe To see the ancient lands And in the ancient halls I heard Creations song first sung In the ancient tongue I heard the name of God Kuri Ande... Beyond The Crystal Sea is nothing less than a progressive art rock masterpiece. If you are a fan of the progressive genre - in all it's forms (and by that I mean from Neal Morse to Shadow Gallery and all things in between) - then by all means make this a priority purchase. Credit Born Twice Records for making Beyond The Crystal Sea available again (with bonus tracks) Review by Andrew Rockwell Track Listing: "Observations Of A Larger Reality" (8:32), "Night Passage" (2:12) "The Vision Ship" (5:35), "Teton" (3:18), "Beyond The Blues" (4:53) "Alpine Magic" (1:42), "From Love Life Did Begin" (6:51), "Long, Long Ago" (5:47), "The Gates Of Time" (3:45) Musicians Jimmy Hotz - Lead Vocals, Guitars & Bass Phil Huston & Paul Mills - Keyboards Recorder - Kemper Crabb Brian Tankersley & Wayne Six - Bass Gary Ingram & Russell Dunlap - Drums NO LIFE TIL METAL REVIEWS Jimmy Hotz - Beyond the Crystal Sea (Born Twice) 1979 1. Observations of a Larger Reality (8:32) .....a. March of the Dead Souls .....b. Hand of the Most High 2. Night Passage (2:13) 3. The Vision Ship (5:36) 4. Teton (3:18) 5. Beyond the Blues (4:54) 6. Alpine Magin [instrumental] (1:43) 7. From Love Life Did Begin (6:51) BONUS TRACKS 8. Long, Long Ago (5:47) 9. The Gates of Time (3:45) 'Beyond the Crystal Sea' is one of those gems from the 70's that was all but forgotten, until 2010 when Born Twice Records resurrected it for a whole new generation. While the original album was released in '79, this album sounds like it could have been written and recorded in the early 1970's. The style is melodic, progressive rock that would fall somewhere between the more ethereal material from bands like Nektar and King Crimson and the spacey, psychedelic music of Hawkwind or early Pink Floyd. This is the type of music that was created during a time when music was considered art, rather than just a product of which to gain radio hits and sell product. The music on 'Beyond the Crystal Sea' is stacked full of majestic melodies that are built from a combination of keys, synthesizers and guitars. Some of Jimmy Hotz guitar work is surprisingly accomplished, again reminding me of some of those great progressive guitarists from the 70's like Steve Howe and Roye Albrighton. Hotz's melodramatic vocals fit well with the overall spacey vibe of the music. At times his voice reminds me of early Peter Gabriel from his days with Genesis. To be quite frank, I was unfamiliar with Jimmy Hotz until the release of this CD and when I saw the somewhat cheesy 70's cover art for this album, I wasn't sure what to expect. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this progressive work. Fans of classic 70's Yes, Genesis, Nektar, Be Bop Deluxe, etc. Would do themselves well to check this out. Pop this one into your CD player late at night, throw on the headphones, kick band and mellow out to the ethereal sounds that emanate. The 2010 reissue is completely remastered. Being that I am completely unfamiliar with the original release, I could not say if the mastering has improved or hampered the recording. However, this sounds quite good, with all instruments heard and the volumes up to modern standards, without being overly loud and compressed. The reissue also includes two bonus tracks, both of which are as good as the album tracks themselves. TEETH OF THE DIVINE REVIEW A 30th Anniversary Special Edition with bonus tracks of an album I've never heard of. If you're going to be obscure, it doesn't get much more obscure than Christian prog rock. The only other band of this kind I had ever heard of (not counting Neal Morse) is Arkangel, but even that I've never actually heard. After a few spins of Beyond The Crystal Sea I can easily see why it remained so obscure. Now, as we can all attest to, just because something is obscure does not mean it's not good. It just means that there are elements there that would not have appealed to a mass amount of people in the first place. Christian rock and prog rock already have that going for them... put the two together and you narrow the margin even more. No matter, because this is a fine piece of synthesizer-laden space/prog rock. Jimmy Hotz, as it turns out, is a session player turned solo artist. His list of credits include Fleetwood Mac, Yes, Kitaro, B.B. King and Steve Winwood (plus, he's also apparently a key player in MIDI controller development.) Treading somewhere between early Yes and Hawkwind, and sporting some very Peter Gabriel-esque vocals, Beyond The Crystal Sea is a record that will please the collectors and connoisseurs of prog and space rock everywhere. The lyrics are very Christian-themed which fit nicely in a prog setting, as this genre tends to lean toward the fantastical as it is. Songs like "The Vision Ship", "Beyond The Blues" and "The Gates Of Time" (one of the two bonus tracks), while somewhat dated, have just the right balance of grandiose skill and campy appeal that makes prog of this sort what it is. I have no frame of reference sonically since I never heard the original, but it doesn't sound bad... like any other record that was recorded and released in 1979 anyway. If you enjoy looking for long-forgotten treasures in prog rock, check this one out. It's not going to blow your mind, but it should make for a couple of enjoyable listens. METAL SOUND REVIEWS This is one more re-release and this is actually 30th anniversary edition. We're talking here about one more progressive record in the true sense of the word ''progressive'' and also this particular issue is highly ambiental. Some would also say that this album is much heavier comparing to his previous records, but I think that this ''heavy'' influences are not that much important comparing to other influences which are more ambient-like. And indeed, ''Beyond the Crystal Sea'' offer something really precious to us. The material has great spiritual trip-like feeling. Everything somehow sounds very mystic. Although this album is mostly slower one, I think that it has a specific kind of dynamic which is not so specific for the other records from this particular period. I mean, there is some kind of very interesting vibe which offers you a relaxing and very pleasant time when you start to listen this album. One should really get deep into the album beacuse each particular track is a part of the greater saga. You cannot extract any song from the entire work. I recommend this album for all those metal and hard rock fans out there. Ok, this record is more for those who are into some kind of lighter sound but surly you'll enjoy in this as much as I did!